At some point in the life of a brand, its management gets delegated to a new brand manager. This may be through an external acquisition, internal reassignment, or turnover. Whatever the reason, this puts the health of your brand at stake, and in many cases, challenges its very survival. You worked hard to build your brand. You’ve delivered excellent customer service, a superior customer experience, and an outstanding reputation. It’s taken you years!
Now you are on to new brand development or you are growing so fast as a company, you don’t have time to personally manage the brand you designed. Now you are at the point of delegating the management of your brand to a new person. This is probably the most precarious event in the life of a brand. This is when most brands fail. As we like to say, “Most brands are not killed by the competition. They are victims of self-inflicted wounds.”
Here are some questions to consider before you delegate your brand’s management to a new person:
- Motive. What is the motive of the person you are putting in charge of your brand? Are they committed to the long term health of the brand, or are they keen on making their mark on the brand? Would they hurt the brand long term to improve their resume short term?
- Comprehension. Do they really get the brand? Do they understand the nuances and multifaceted nature of the brand, or do they have the simple-minded, “Just tell me the one thing,” approach? Will they try to simplify the brand in the name of efficiency and sacrifice quality perception?
- Ownership. Do they realize that brands are owned by their customers and that the perception of the brand is the customer’s perception, not theirs or that of the company? Or do they think that your company owns the brand, or worse, that they “own” it?
- Evolution. Do they believe in change for change sake? Do they use terms like “It’s time for a change” when there’s no compelling market reason for it? Or do they realize that that cautious and measured evolution will save more customers than shocking revolution?
- Distribution. Do they think that distribution is someone else’s job? Are they ready to affix blame when out-of-stocks occur? Or are they proactive to satisfy everybody in the distribution chain to provide a dependable, always in-stock, customer experience? Do they know the customer will blame the brand if it’s not available?
- Mission. Is their view of the brand limited to the mercantile value proposition the brand offers? Or do they aspire to a higher purpose of supporting the community from where the brand’s customers emanate? Do they understand that a social reason to buy the brand builds more loyalty than a mercantile reason?
- History. Do they know or care about the history of the brand? Do they understand the brand story? Or do they see the brand as just another label to move merchandise? Do they know why the founders were successful, or do they think they have the luxury to rewrite the story in spite of the popular conception of the brand?
These are just a few of the questions a responsible brand builder should be asking about any candidate who may become the next brand steward. The answers to these questions will give you a big clue about what the new steward will do to your brand once it leaves your hands. When it comes to delegating brand management, don’t fumble the hand off!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders